Alaskan group Portugal. The Man has been a slave to the studio since 2006, producing a record per year up until 2011. All have been solid records but nothing like their newest. Evil Friends. The two-year hiatus produced automatic toe tapping and the group’s best sound yet.
Danger Mouse produced the album, which explains the heightened gloomy undertones. The album is noticeably darker than Portugal’s American Ghetto (2010) and In the Mountain in the Cloud (2011), but is still able to work with their upbeat vibe.
Their normal alt-pop sound is matched with electric guitar riffs and piano that give the sound more edge.
The sound is born again angst. The mid 20s, forced to face the world kind of angst. Portugal gets it. “Modern Jesus,” probably the best track on the album, makes the theme apparent with lyrics like “Don’t pray for us. We don’t need no modern Jesus to roll with us” and “you don’t need sympathy, they have a pill for everything.”
“Atomic Man” and “Plastic Soldiers” are the two best examples of how varied the sound is on each song on the album.
“Plastic Soldiers” starts slow with mixed sounds of guitar and studio sound effects but moves into a folkie meets funk beat. “Atomic Man” keeps an enthusiastic tempo as it intertwines alt-rock into a singer-songwriter, quiet ending.
The keyed up lyrics and fluctuating sounds make for an album only Portugal. The Man and Danger Mouse could make.
Taking the nearly two-year break from recording was probably just what Portugal. The Man needed to take their music to the next level. With a more versatile sound, Evil Friends is definitely the best yet.